xxxx How to claim damages for IP violations xxx

How to claim damages for IP violations
xxxx
Becerril Coca & Becerril xxx
SC
Juan Carlos Amaro Alvarado and Carlos Hernández Becerril Coca & Becerril SC
Mexico
How to claim damages for IP violations
The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (MIIP) is
the body responsible for determining whether an IP
infringement has taken place. It issues such a
determination after the conclusion of an administrative
proceeding, which is prosecuted in the same way as a
full trial. These administrative proceedings are governed
by the Industrial Property Law, which also establishes
penalties for those found guilty of infringement –
penalties range from a fine or an administrative arrest
to the permanent closure of the infringer’s business.
According to the law, a common infringement action
proceeding is initiated when the IP rights holder files an
initial brief before the MIIP alleging an infringement and
enclosing evidence of this.
Once the MIIP admits the claim, it notifies the
alleged infringer. If requested in the brief, the MIIP
may also carry out an inspection visit to the alleged
infringer’s premises. The alleged infringer is then
granted a short term in which to file its response.
Following admission of the response, the MIIP
requires both parties to file final pleadings. The MIIP
will then render its final decision. If it finds that an
infringement to an IP right was proved in the proceeding,
it will impose an administrative penalty on the infringer
(ie, a fine, an administrative arrest or the
temporary/permanent closure of the infringer’s business)
Additionally, the law establishes that the rights
holder is entitled to claim appropriate compensatory
damages under civil legislation by filing an independent
action before a civil court. Compensation for material
damages will be at least 40 per cent of the sale price of
each infringing product or service offered and sold by
the infringer. However, the law fails to state when a
rights holder should file the civil action to obtain
compensatory damages.
When to claim?
The lack of regulation establishing the proper time at
which to file a civil action to claim damages has resulted
in confusion among rights holders; some rights holders
102 Building and enforcing intellectual property value 2010
have initiated civil actions to claim for damages before
obtaining a decision from the MIIP as to whether
infringement has even taken place, as well as after the
issuance of an infringement action decision.
As a consequence of this lack of regulation, in
2004 the Supreme Court issued a criterion in Case
31/2003 stating that rights holders must wait until
the administrative instance of litigation is definitively
decided (ie, the MIIP has issued a declaration of
infringement) before they may initiate a civil action
to claim damages from the infringer.
This decision was supported by the Supreme Court
of Justice, which argued that civil courts are not IP
specialists and are thus not capable of determining
whether a violation of an industrial property right has
taken place. Such courts are competent only to apply civil
legislation. The law clearly appoints the MIIP as the
expert administrative authority that is entitled to study
and prosecute infringements of industrial property rights.
As a consequence of this ruling, it is now clear
that rights holders must wait until the administrative
instance of litigation is definitively decided by the MIIP
and a declaration of infringement is issued, in order to
be entitled to initiate a civil action to claim damages
from the infringer.
However, despite this ruling confusion remained over
whether this criterion applied only to industrial property
or whether it also applied to claims for compensation for
copyright violations. Case 31/2003, in which the Supreme
Court issued this judgment, was a trademark case and
trademarks are classified as industrial property under
Mexican law. However, cases of copyright infringement
are treated differently, especially with regard to civil law.
Copyright and civil law
According to the Copyright Law, copyright infringements
must be prosecuted and decided in an administrative
proceeding by the MIIP (ie, exactly as must happen for
infringements of industrial property rights).
However, even though administrative proceedings
Becerril Coca & Becerril SC Mexico
There is an urgent need for the federal courts
to establish an obligatory precedent to determine
when an affected party may request a civil court
to determine compensatory damages for copyright
infringement
to determine copyright infringement are decided by
the MIIP under, apparently, the same rules as the
infringement of industrial property rights, there was
a question over whether the criterion issued by the Supreme
Court in 2004 applied to cases of copyright violations.
This uncertainty was based on the following:
• Both the Copyright Law and the Civil Code regulate
copyrights. However, the Civil Code regulates
copyrights as personal properties;
• The Copyright Law expressly contemplates that
litigation proceedings for copyright violations might
be prosecuted by federal courts under the
application of the Copyright Law; and
• Monetary damages for copyright violations must
be prosecuted by the federal courts under both the
Copyright Law and the Civil Code.
In contrast, cases of industrial property rights are
regulated solely by the Industrial Property Law, which
states that litigation proceedings must be prosecuted
and decided by the MIIP and any compensation must
be prosecuted and decided by a civil court.
With regard to case law in this area, civil courts
decided to admit and study civil actions that were filed
for copyright violations without the prior issuance of
an administrative infringement decision from the MIIP.
Judges argued that they were entitled to resolve such
disputes, as civil legislation establishes that copyrights
are considered personal property. Several civil judges
maintained that they were perfectly competent to
resolve disputes related to compensatory damages
for personal property.
Supreme Court clarity
However, a precedent issued by the Supreme Court
of Justice in 2008 has provided some clarity on this
issue by stating that in order to request compensatory
damages for copyright infringement, rights holders must
have in place a prior issuance of an infringement action
from the MIIP declaring the existence of a copyright
violation. In this case, the Supreme Court applied the
same considerations and rules governing obligatory
precedents related to violations of industrial property
rights (Case 31/2003).
This 2008 precedent was supported by the Supreme
Court of Justice, which argued that as is the case with
violations of industrial property rights, the civil courts
do not specialise in IP matters. The expert in both
industrial and intellectual property is the MIIP. The main
purpose of the Supreme Court’s 2004 criterion was to
ensure that civil actions for compensatory damages are
heard only after the existence of an infringement has
been established; such civil actions are not designed to
establish whether an infringement has been committed.
Attending to the purpose of the 2004 criterion, in
2008 the Supreme Court stated that the same conditions
apply to actions to obtain compensatory damages for
both industrial property rights and copyrights, even
though copyrights are related to civil rights. The main
purpose of such cases is to narrow the scope of the civil
action simply to determining the amount of
compensatory damages.
Closing the loophole
However, despite this, the Supreme Court’s 2008
criterion is not yet obligatory. As a result, civil judges
may still admit and study civil actions for compensatory
damages in relation to copyright violations, even
without a prior declaration from the MIIP. In such cases,
therefore, these civil judges must still analyse whether
Building and enforcing intellectual property value 2010 103
Mexico Becerril Coca & Becerril SC
the defendant infringed the IP right before determining
whether damages occurred as a consequence of this
infringement.
As a consequence, there is an urgent need for the
federal courts to establish an obligatory precedent to
determine when an affected party may request a civil
court to determine compensatory damages for copyright
infringement, in order to have a precise and efficient
system through which an affected party can request
compensatory damages for IP violations from the civil
courts. This should allow IP rights holders to defend
rapidly their interests where their rights are infringed.
It is vital to have a clear set of criteria as to when
rights holders can file an action to claim compensation
for damages caused by infringement. This is both to:
• encourage rights holders to sue for damages; and
• deter offenders from infringing those rights.
This latter reason is particularly important as under
the current regime, rights holders must wait for the
conclusion of a lengthy administrative proceeding,
which takes at least five years (including the two further
instances of appeal), before they can even obtain a final
decision declaring that an infringement has taken place.
After that, they must initiate a civil trial, which can
take another five years (including two further instances
of appeal), before they can hope to receive any
compensation for the infringement. Given this, it is
not uncommon for rights holders to decide not to
bother to seek compensation and sometimes not even
to bother initiating and pursuing an infringement action.
Of course, this encourages infringers to continue and
even increase their unlawful activities.
Currently, proposals are being contemplated that
would improve the procedure for claiming damages.
Among other things, these proposals suggest bundling
the two actions together so that the MIIP would
determine not only whether an infringement had taken
place, but also what compensatory damages to award
for this. It is hoped that rolling the two actions into
one would greatly expedite the process, making it
easier and faster for rights holders to seek damages
for infringement. It remains to be seen whether these
proposals will be implemented; it is hoped that such
changes will be made soon to IP law in Mexico in order
to strengthen the regime for rights holders.
Juan Carlos Amaro Alvarado
Litigation manager, Mexico City
Tel +52 55 5263 8730
Email [email protected]
Becerril Coca & Becerril SC
Mexico
Juan Carlos Amaro is an associate at Becerril Coca & Becerril SC. He
graduated from the Universidad del Valle de México and obtained a
postgraduate degree in constitutional law at the Universidad
Panamericana. Mr Amaro practises in IP litigation and enforcement,
and anti-counterfeiting. He is a member of the Mexican Association
for the Protection of Intellectual Property, the ICC and the Mexican Bar
Association. He has participated in several forums on IP matters and
has published articles in different media.
Carlos Hernández
Attorney at law, Mexico City
Tel +52 55 5263 8730
Email [email protected]
Becerril Coca & Becerril SC
Mexico
Carlos Hernández is a member of Becerril Coca & Becerril SC’s
enforcement and litigation team. He graduated from the Instituto
Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey with a master’s
degree in international law. Mr Hernández speaks English and Spanish.
He is experienced in litigation, anti-counterfeiting, civil and administrative
procedures, industrial property law, as well as corporate and commercial
law. Currently he specialises in litigation, particularly involving trademarks
and copyrights.
104 Building and enforcing intellectual property value 2010
Becerril Coca & Becerril SC
Thiers 251, Floors 9 to 14,
Col Anzures, Del Miguel Hidalgo,
Mexico City 11590, Mexico
Tel +52 55 5263 8730
Fax +52 55 5263 8731
Web www.bcb.com.mx
Email [email protected]mx
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